The Real Father of Edward of Lancaster: A Tale of Three Edwards

In his magisterial Wars of the Roses, historian Dr John Ashdown-Hill demonstrated beyond doubt that Henry VI could not have been the father of Edward of Westminster. The fact that he did so without offering any evidence makes his feat even more dazzling.

So who was the father of this misbegotten so-called prince? Although Dr Ashdown-Hill propounded the theory that Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, was the father, I find myself in the humble position of having to disagree, for once, with him. But I shall do so gently and respectfully.

Edward of Lancaster. Certainly illegitimate.
Edward of Lancaster. Certainly illegitimate.

As we know from Dr Ashdown-Hill’s equally magisterial Royal Marriage Secrets, Katherine of Valois’s sons Edmund and Jasper were fathered not by Owen Tudor, as those hidebound historians tied to tired ways of looking at things would have it, but by Edmund Beaufort. Why else would the eldest boy have been named “Edmund” instead of “Owen”?

Thus, logic dictates that we look for a man named Edward as the father of Edward of Lancaster. One name springs forth instantly: Edward, Earl of March.

Now, an objection, and a quite reasonable one at that, immediately comes to mind: Edward, Earl of March, born in 1442, was too young to father a child in 1453. But I would propound that Cecily, Duchess of York actually had two sons named Edward: one the legitimate offspring of Richard, Duke of York, the other the son of a lowly archer. The legitimate son was born in 1430, the date given by Sir Thomas More in his History of King Richard the Third, which goes to show that even a stopped clock tells the time right twice a day. Thus, as a randy twenty-three-year-old, the strapping Earl of March was more than ready, willing, and able to serve the beautiful, frustrated, and very French queen in any way she deemed necessary. Need I say more?

Margaret of Anjou, Lancastrian harlot
Margaret of Anjou, Lancastrian harlot

But tension was building not only between Lancaster and York, but between Legitimate Brother Edward and Illegitimate Brother Edward. As the 1450s wore on and Illegitimate Brother Edward approached the age of manhood, he brooded not only upon his base birth, but upon his older brother’s seduction of the beautiful queen. Consumed by jealousy, in 1459, he killed his brother.

Edward IV, looking guilty, as well he should
Edward IV, looking guilty, as well he should

Illegitimate Brother Edward had always lived out of the public eye, and he bore a remarkable resemblance to his dead brother. So Richard, Duke of York, who had come to rather like his wife’s bastard, and who did not wish to air his dirty laundry in public, hit upon a plan. He and Illegitimate Brother Edward would manufacture an excuse to flee abroad, stay a few months, and then return, with Illegitimate Brother Edward assuming the role of Dead, Legitimate Brother Edward, Earl of March. Their opportunity came in October 1459, at Ludford Bridge. When Illegitimate Brother Edward returned the following summer in the guise of his dead older brother, no man was the wiser, although a few marvelled at his youthful appearance and concluded that his exile must have been a very pleasant one.

But one woman was the wiser–Margaret of Anjou, who somehow had learned of her lover’s death. From that point on, she was determined to destroy the fake Earl of March, who had killed the father of her darling boy. Not until she was a prisoner and her son lay dead on the field of Tewkesbury would England be safe from her wrath. In the interim, countless lives were lost. We could blame this on  Margaret of Anjou’s lust for vengeance, Illegitimate Brother Edward’s lust for power and status, and Legitimate Brother Edward’s just plain lust –but we shall not. Instead, we shall blame it on young Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, who somehow managed to plan it all in order to put her own whelp on the throne.


John Ashdown-Hill, Royal Marriage Secrets

John Ashdown-Hill, The Wars of the Roses

Sir Thomas More, The History of King Richard the Third

A dream I had before my dog woke me up to be taken outside. Damn dog.

Jeff Borden has been resting over the past few months. He is feeling much better, thank you very much.


19 thoughts on “The Real Father of Edward of Lancaster: A Tale of Three Edwards

  1. This is priceless! Thanks for making me laugh. Though I have to ask in all seriousness- did John Ashdown-Hill actually say that about Prince Edward without a Shred of Proof?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. By the way, enjoyed the article, but just one thing. You were somewhat mistaken when you said an eleven year old could not father a child! It all depended on the genetics of the individual and his rate of majority!!! It has happened. But as you will know, we can’t prove this one! One should always look at the insignificant factors before approaching an assumption. Though I must apologize for even writing that. Yet it seems that most historians are not into checking the somewhat hidden or smaller facts. Thanks for posting that article!


      2. My only response to this coud be a facepalm. There is really no evidence at all that anyone other than Henry VI was the father of Prince Edward, aside from rumour, gossip and speculation (most of it originating from the Yorkists, no doubt).

        Even that famous story about King Henry supposedly being wholly surprised at the birth of a child, and the remark about conception by the Holy Spirit is from a pro-Yorkist Chronicle written something like a decade after the Prince’s birth from what I have heard…..


      3. Hannibalpr Phillip

        I think in a lot of cases, historians do not have to ‘check hidden and smaller facts’ especially if they are in the realm of rather wild speculation, or pure invention. Historians have not considered the fact of an 11 year old Edward of York having a child by Margaret of Anjou, probably because the major facts show little or no association between them, and it is frankly absurd…….


    1. The trouble is, this has put me off reading anything by him- it would just annoy me and I may end up doing unspeakable things I would never normally dream of doing to any innocent book.

      I am guessing though, with some sadness that folk take his ideas seriously?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey! Richard Duke of York had a second son called Edmund! Does that mean Beaufort was his real father as well!? Or could it be, by some remote chance, that naming patterns do not indicate paternity, but instead family relations, fashions, or who the godparents were?


    1. The plot thickens! Seriously though, its just silly to assume naming patterns prove paternity. ROY’s second son was probably named after Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York, and Edward was just a popular name. As was John, Richard, Thomas etc…..


      1. Then again, you must forgive me, but pure science basically in some cases out trumps historical facts. There is a possibility that an eleven year old could create children. Like I said previously it all depends on the rate of physical maturity the individual is going through. I am not saying this was the case, but like all things, it could have happened. We historians have to look at all angles, like you have done and still are doing, but we all tend to overlook some of the possibilities.


  3. Unfortunately, as you well know or should know, nothing is absurd in history. Facts that basically are either hidden or mistakenly translated, have been for the most part surfacing at a faster pace today than ever before. As for my comment concerning the possibility of an eleven year boy causing a pregnancy, is scientifically proven. Yet, I was not calling your research one sided, only reminding you that nothing is ever as it seems. And as for the topic of it being Yorkist propaganda, you may be 100% perfectly right. But we all should realize that stranger things happen within human life. Admittedly, I tend to agree with you, yet if there is the smallest possibility (and remember, not every movement was recorded, nor every visit made common knowledge!) we must think about it and make a clear and precise statement on it. I really appreciate your answering my reply.


    1. I am quite prepared to admit that it is within the realms of scientific possibility- but- I am going to say that just because something is scientifically possible, it does not mean it is likely, credible, or consistent with a person’s known behaviour and personality traits.
      I get what you are saying about how historians should consider scientific possibility- but I think you also need to realize that we must place this in the context of historical evidence, and credbility.

      We have no evidence that Margaret of Anjou had a particular penchant for sex with 11 year old boys, for instance- and indeed, the whole idea that she was ‘sexually frustrated’ or ‘sexually promiscious’ is also not based on any historical evidence. In fact, I would say if she had really been that much of a nymphomaniac, she would likely have got pregnant more than once……

      We also have to look at household accounts and the like, because although they cannot tell us everything, they can tell us where people were at any given time. Edward and Edmund may have been nowhere near Margaret of Anjou at any time when the Prince was concieved, or at any other time- and the thing about Medieval royals, is that they usually had servants around them. You can bet your bottom dollar that if Margaret had liked pre-teen boys, there would be gossip about it.

      So in conclusion, I really don’t think we need to go into for all kinds of crazy sensationalism about historical figures simply because it is ‘scientifically possible’.


      1. I would add, that its also scientifically possible to give birth to a baby with two heads, or that is a hermaphrodite. Am I going to suggest Henry VI was a two-headed hermaphrodite on that basis? No. I am not. Am I going to suggest Alfred the Great’s dauther was ‘really’ male because she took part in traditionally male activities?
        No. Because it would be silly. Scientfically possible does not necessarily mean logical or plausible.


      2.   Thank you for answering and once again, I must admit, you certainly make the case.Then again, I would never want you to admit anything which would not stand up to scrutiny. No scientific reality is not a criteria, and as you should have mentioned nor does it mean either logical and etc….. Your comment about just because Alfred’s daughter took part in male activities, does not mean she was …… was great. Yet, it could mean many things. No, I am not going to go  there. Once again, I would like to thank you for taking the time out to answer my messages. I am enjoying your work, not only is it highly insightful, it is well written. I have highly recommended your site to my students and fellow historians. Until next time!


      3. Thank you for answer my last message, but once again you are missing the point. Now I agree with everything you have written, but and here is the big but, how many household accounts tell everything. How many affairs were going on, without anybody knowing it. Yes, of course at times these affairs were well known or even hinted at. Nor am I trying to make a case for this to have happened. What I was really trying to get at is the simple idea that though we may think we know how these historical characters acted, because outwardly they were well known, we basically don’t, because you could be one thing in front of people, such as nobles, servants and etc… and totally be another thing afterwards. The consequence of all of this my Lady, is that all of us are skating on thin ice when we discuss these famous individuals. Nor am I attempting to create a so called conspiracy theory, mainly because I do not believe in such matters. Yet I totally agree with you that there is no possibility that this could have happened. Its just that we have to realize that they were indeed famous, but human beings just as well! I bow before your knowledge and your ability to make a precise point! And by the way the name is Philip and not Hannibalpr, that is my email. My mistake for not adding it!


      4. Hello Phillip

        I don’t believe I am missing the point- but are you familiar with the proverb of ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’?

        It is true that the records cannot tell us everything that historical figures did all the time- in the same way as we cannot know what politicians, celebrities or indeed our own family members are doing at the time today (short of bugging thier houses!)

        However, I do not believe this justifies the sort of imaginative flights of fancy that some writers like to engage in- assuming that they have to fill the blanks, and to make things more interesting tell us that X was having an affair with A,B,C,D and Z.

        People have flaws, but real life is not like what one sees in Eastenders, or Neighbours. Soap Operas like that are an exaggerated and heavily dramatized version of ‘reality’ that a lot of the time, is not very ‘realistic’ at all.

        In other words, its quite possible that in on the occasions that are unaccounted for, historical persons were doing quite mundane, day-to-day things like people do now- like paperwork or reading. We should, I think make reasonable, sensible assumptions based on what we know of their character from what the people who actually knew them might have told us. For, instance, I for one consider it very unlikely that Henry VI would actually have said that his son was ‘concieved of the Holy Spirit’ as one Yorkist Chronicler recounted. One can be pretty sure he knew how babies were made- and furthermore, such an assertion would have been considered shockingly blasphemous to Medieval sensiblities- even heretical. One cannot imagine a Medieval King, notef for his piety just randomly coming out with something like that.

        We don’t have to assume that they were having affairs every five minutes, or plotting all the time- or indeed that they were what gossip designed to discredit them says they were.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I could also add that household accounts can show us more than perhaps is thought- for instance if a lot of payments were being made to a woman who mysterously left the household- or suddenly reappears with a child.

        It is actually possible to trace potential mistresses, lovers, and liasons though such records.


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